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Kat Dierickx | 08.13.2015

Is it possible to find solitude in one of California's mountainous national parks? It certainly is, but like anything worth having, it takes a little work. Here are a few of our favorite backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada.

From south to north:

The 27-mile loop from Glacier Pass to Sawtooth Pass in Sequoia National Park

Spring Lake with the Great Western Divide looming. Yes, you cross that. Photo by Aron Bosworth.

The Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park provides access to some of the most spectacular high country in the southern Sierra. Over the course of the trail and the 3,819 feet of elevation gain you'll cross open meadows, countless alpine lakes and red fir forests while taking in unbelievable view after unbelievable view. Pack your fishing rod as many of the lakes are home to small California golden and rainbow trout. If you're looking for something shorter, there are many single-day and multi-day backpacking options that start from the Mineral King Valley. 

The 42-mile Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park 

Rae Lakes region. Photo by Alix Sorrell.

This loop has everything an ideal backpacking trip should have: stunning lake basins, rushing waterfalls, and splendidly carved canyons. Although hikable in either direction, starting at Road's End and looping north to south affords a more gradual elevation change. Over the course of the trail you'll have a net elevation gain of about 6,943 feet. Seeing as this is one of the more popular trails in Kings Canyon, plan your three- to six-day adventure in the fall when the summer rush is over.

The 28-mile trail from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley

Trail through the meadow in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Brandon Katcher.

There is no other national park quite like Yosemite, and there is no better way to really see its spectacular scenery than by trekking your way into the valley. This trail starts at Tuolumne Meadows along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail and weaves through a number of trails in the park with a net elevation gain of 6,620 feet. You won't be short on alpine lakes, mountain streams, and a plethora of wildlife. 

Remember that permits and bear canisters are required for all these backpacking trips in the national parks. Visit each individual adventure for additional details on the routes. Check out Clever Hiker's 12 Tips for Planning Backpacking Adventures for additional resources.



If you want 100 miles, just pick an eastern lateral from the Owens Valley, measure down the JMT, then add the eastern lateral back out, add in/out to the JMT mileage and get to 100.
For Mike Little,

Have you tried the Pine Creek Eastern Lateral above Bishop, just north of the Buttermilk Country? It's not long to Honeymoon Lake, then up to Humprhries Basin if you have the energy. Or to Italy Pass, but down the west side is cross-country and fairly difficult. Well, I just re-read your entry--so you've done Pine Creek. I think Tom's Place might be a good starting point for an easier east side backpack.
I'm getting older, love the high Sierra along the east side above Bishop, Lone Pine, etc. But the last couple of trips have been more difficult for me (and friends) than in the past. Those trips include Mosquito Flat, over Mono Pass, then on to Pioneer Basin. We returned via Golden Lake. Prior to that, it was Onion Valley to Rae Lakes and Sixty Lakes and back.
Backpacking trips of that difficulty are one's we want to avoid. We've been over Bishop Pass into Kings Canyon twice and that was a lot easier. We're looking for something along the east side that would be about the same as Bishop/Kings but new to us. We have been over Paiute to Humphries Basin to Desolation Lake and back via Golden Trout. Also, twice up Pine Creek to various areas.
Any advice? Thank you.
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